When politics is personal

I have been a contributor to Liberal Democrat Voice for so long,a reader for longer,that some  have asked me why I do not write articles for it. As a contributor to one or two other sites,and someone who also, amongst other things  does write professionally,and increasingly has had my head down more than once upon a time,this site has seemed to be a part of my political, rather than creative world.As I am based in an area,Nottingham,and from one,London,where getting elected for this party is no easy or even very feasible thing,politics is for me the world of the amateur of professional standard,my degree was in history and politics and as with many in our party,my interests are in both,but not my financial interests! But amateur means motivated by love for something,when referring to the reason for doing something,rather than the ability at something.I love the world of politics even if a part of me loathes it too!

That is not something I could say of this site.While it can drive me potty at times,I do believe it to be the best political site in Britain,the efforts of it’s editors considerable,especially considering they are, as with that word again, amateurs in not getting paid, though of such obvious professional standard as writers as well as editors.I play a part in something , in which I am delighted to do so.

But my despair at certain things today,and at times I would call it this, in our society or our party, in my sphere or profession,encourages me to do one of two things.Either say, and do less, of that which has been my answer to that frustration, politics,or, say and do, more.Often,my solution,like many of my views,is between two extremes and I have chosen to do neither, but find a strong middle way.I am coming to the conclusion that although my Italian and Irish part lineage, and theatrical and artistic temperament,might lead me to rely on that steadier influence that comes from my English side, and go for the reasonable and the moderate, that I have to say and do more.I have something to say and I have got something to do and I am going to say and do it.

I want to explore the areas of concern I have,and so many of us share.Yet I want to make it personal enough to reveal  the level of feeling, and political enough to reflect the force of ideas.One of my greatest inspirations was Sir Peter Ustinov. A humorist,actor,humanitarian ambassador,author of twenty plays, director of films and a lifelong Liberal, and Liberal Party and Liberal Democrat voter.As late as the 1990’s,asked how he votes, he stated, emphatically,”I’m an Ashdown man !”His tendency towards humour, a flippancy almost, belied one of the greatest of humanitarian efforts on behalf of the world’s children outside of,  yes, that distinction again, professional diplomacy. UNICEF ambassadors are not paid, they do indeed do it for the love of it.I am delighted to be a member of the Ustinov Prejudice Awareness Forum,visit Ustinov Forum which is an excellent initiative started by his son, Igor, who is an artist, to continue the legacy of Sir Peter Ustinov to defeat prejudice from a position of awareness of it through understanding it. I can recommend them to my fellow contributors to and readers on this site.

I currently have an article on there which I would like others to read, for it has a wider perspective too,about a project I am developing and which makes me feel empathy with a man I worked with, and my other true hero in the arts, Lord Attenborough. It took him twenty years to make Ghandi from first thought to final cut ! I am trying to get a musical off the ground,I have been writing, of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, called TOM’S CABIN- The Man Of Humanity, a powerful musical drama. Despite a West End and Broadway director interested, trying to interest anyone without the contacts of the financial world is a task that has shown less in that my hair is silvery gold anyway, but perhaps would have stayed gold longer if the gold had been in my bank account rather than an overdraft ! My musical and  the struggle to make it is a story of someone who has happened by an injustice and is trying to right it.Harriet Beecher Stowe was the greatest abolitionist of her time in the US precisely because she did what she did with a book.Abraham Lincoln met her in the Civil War and his meeting with her is stuff of legend, “So this is the little woman who started this big war !”Feminism, in it’s effort amongst academics and to it’s credit amidst disinterest,has begun to undo the damage of racism, and other scholars and writers too, have in recent years begun too revisit Stowe and her work. They realise as do I,and others too, and increasingly so, that the character of Tom, was nobody’s uncle, a stereotype based on a misunderstanding of a character and a misinterpretation of a book. It was the pro slavery haters of Stowe who truncated her work, caricatured Tom, who is a hero in the novel, and turned him into what too many have seen.

So keen am I to get this off the page onto the stage, I have the details of the potential of the show and my backstory,under the heading of my title for the show, on Go Fund Me and shall follow in the footsteps of my role models eventually somehow,and defeat the lack of funds.  But even the world of crowdfunding is one riven by circumnavigation of the most well connected through and past the less well connected. Liberalism is indeed about the realisation of where power lies and the effort to apportion it to where it doesn’t.  We each of us go through stuff which is why our party understands the personal is political.. My own partner was knocked down by a car many years ago while I was walking with her and the driver came onto the pavement. The repercussions of that changed our lives, stopped us in our tracks , literally, the new theatre company we had started on hold never to fully recover. The credit crunch years, and those before and since ,saw us lose our house. These events make me more political not less.

This, like this whole article, brings me to where I am at. Sir Vince, we need a Creative Investment Bank . Money for commercial as well as not for profit ventures, but for people who have the talent , the initiative, the project itself, but not the funding! I have the interest of creative people but am being hammered by the interest in another way, of banks!

I shall not give up on this site or this effort. It is a Liberal cause. It is a humanitarian one too.Of which and more, yet to come! My belief in what we believe here and what I, as  with so many too, do, as to our response, means I shall  do more not less! I am thinking of doing something I have wanted to for some time ,starting an online initiative called Liberal Arts and Humanity’s Cause. I shall be sharing more of it soon, too.

* Lorenzo Cherin is an actor, writer, and regular contributor to politics as a member of the Liberal Democrats. He is based in Nottingham.

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29 Comments

  • Phil Beesley 25th Nov '17 - 1:53pm

    Nottingham is a great Midlands city, Lorenzo, so enjoy your time there. I met liberals who made me think — Gary Long, Tony Gillam, Ray Poynter and Mark Forskitt. Thanks. Wherever you live, there’s a liberal worth listening to.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 25th Nov '17 - 3:17pm

    Lorenzo, you raise so many important issues.
    It would be good if our party could develop policies to help the creative industries, and especially people who have ideas for exciting, creative projects , but who at present find it very difficult to get the necessary funding. We should recognise that the creative industries are as essential to our nation as any other industry.
    In the 16th century, Shakespeare was able to get his plays performed on the stage of a major London theatre, at quite an early age, and was soon running his own successful theatre company, despite the fact that he came from a very “ordinary” background, and initially had neither money nor influential connections. I’m not suggesting that it was easy for Shakespeare, or for others like Ben Jonson who were from humble backgrounds but achieved rapid success as dramatists. But perhaps it was then possible to get a creative project off the ground on a relatively low budget. It is sad to reflect that it may be harder today than in the 16th or 17th centuries, to succeed in the creative industries without money or connections.

  • I often find your postings difficult to read. I am disappointed that this article was not edited to comply with a standard of typed English, having a space after each and every coma and full stop. This convention makes the text much easier to read.

    I am always interested in finding out more about a contributor’s background, so thank you Lozenzo for this. As it seems you were self-employed when your wife had her accident, I can better understand why you had to sell your house and you didn’t get assistance with paying your mortgage.

    Do you know that many plays and musicals have already been produced based on Uncle Tom’s Cabin, many very soon after the book was written?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Nov '17 - 3:32pm

    Catherine

    You really get to the nub of this, as ever understanding the issues from a perspective that cares about the underdog in a dog eat dog sphere !

    It is true in a sense that it is harder today for various reasons.

    The market is more crowded. Even crowd funding has the element of difficulty in standing out from that crowd. They rarely feature individual projects unless showing immediate or known success.

    The creative industries do not rely on individual creative talents anymore but on administrative and marketing and on managements that are both. The days when Anthony Hopkins got a personal audition for Sir Laurence Olivier at the National Theatre are gone! The National and RSC have hundreds of employees , no actors on permanent or even ongoing repertory contracts. And regional rep went four decades ago or more !

    Banks are not interested in individuals who are innovative but have no capital, even if with a plan that is exciting.

    There is much public money going into the arts but it is nearly all via the arts council, who are , from my direct experience , elitist , modernist , anti traditional unless one of the big companies, and disinterested in anything that is by individuals , might be commercial , and or does not fit into their very stringent matrix.

    I find being creative and poverty stricken far worse sometimes because I have the ideas and back it up with the effort , often to meet a brick wall.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Nov '17 - 3:39pm

    Michael BG

    Spacing in an article is , along with the sort of comma ,full stop ,comma reference, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder ! I write as I speak, and thus am better read that way as if in conversation. Thus when you visit gofundme you can see this changes in my fiction, songwriting and scripts !

    The only adaptations of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, were called Tom Shows, you are correct, very many , all over eighty years ago , and all very awful , from my research.

    I have joined the Stowe Society and the past nonsense of the interpretations which were from prejudiced adaptors, is why the myth began as to the character.

  • Sean Hyland 25th Nov '17 - 4:07pm

    Lorenzo I think you have a range of good points. We get so wrapped up in the basics of living day to day that we forget that it also includes the beauty of the arts. Not sure any party has ever truly addressed this or developed diverse policies. My nephew has been lucky to have a couple of resident director/producer contracts in regional theatre and I think he shares your view on the controlling influence of the arts council.

    He has a strong belief that we should be encouraging new works/artists/writers balanced with bringing back challenging works that often forgotten to comply with the latest fad from the centre. As I’m not in the world I don’t know what the answers are. I wish you luck in your personal endeavours and in spreading the wider vision.

  • Neil Sandison 25th Nov '17 - 4:21pm

    Lorenzo .Sometimes a song ,a verse or a play can cut through where even the most able of politicians fail, best of luck with your Liberal Arts and Humanitarian Cause you may attract many followers.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Nov '17 - 4:41pm

    Sean

    Thank you for that and regards to your nephew who seems like one to know, we share a similar outlook. The real concern is that in their desire to connect with the arts and creativity , politicians either do so at the very top of the tree or pander to the very bottom lowest common denominators of populism. When you are neither, but in the mainstream yet , very individual not doing the typical, then you fall, or slip down between the stools ! Your comments enthuse me .

    Neil

    The way you put it encourages more work by me , not less, as said here, to say and do things from both my own , our Liberal, and the cultural perspective I have by nature. Thanks for the positive and understanding comment.

  • Sean Hyland 25th Nov '17 - 5:12pm

    Lorenzo I will point him in the direction of your piece next time I see him. I know what you mean about the politician and how they approach the arts. They seem to need the reflected “glory” of celebrities as if somehow it will enhance them.

    I would be such happier with a politician who battles for a local theatre, art space, writers group, or performance company. We risk losing what little we have locally to feed London. I will look out In future for your planned arts cause. Keep writing what and the way you are inspired.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Nov '17 - 6:30pm

    Lorenzo, good to see an article from you. I know I’ve not been around much recently, I’ve been busy with work and studying, but I’ve enjoyed our interactions on this site.

    Sorry to hear about what you and your wife have been through. For funding for your play, have you tried creating a limited company and looking for SEIS venture capital funding from sites such as Crowdcube etc.?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Nov '17 - 7:10pm

    Sean, very good of you to return, thanks.Thanks Eddie, very much appreciated. With your suggestion, the routine in the world of theatre is to go it alone until a management take it up, then big sums for a production. I am developing not producing , yet. If I get only very little further over the few months coming , with this, shall consider your suggestion. Do visit gofundme and follow as above and read the story , your views matter.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Nov '17 - 7:50pm

    Hi Lorenzo, I went on gofundme but it was a link to the homepage and not your page?

    Thanks

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Nov '17 - 10:15pm

    Hi, Lorenzo, so good to see an article from you, who manage to convey such human warmth on this site that one is encouraged to go on contributing, because you make one feel that here is congenial company. That is a rare gift you give us, when so many are anonymous or personally uncommunicative even when of liberal-minded views, and I truly value it. Proof: on seeing the headline and byline I felt a momentary alarm that you were about to say you were giving up on LDV! There are only a few contributors of whom I could say that, though quite a number whose thoughts I value enough to make a mental, and sometimes a written, note of their names and opinions.

    I only wish I could contribute to you by saying something helpful about your attempt to find backing for your project, but I I have no influential friends. Is there any chance you could relate the story to racism in this country, and get wider interest thereby? Or to internationalism? We need new connections when Britain is narrowing down and closing in on itself, sadly. I have been pleased just lately to have been host to a likeable young German man educated in Scotland, now working in the far north of that country, who has there a South African partner of Portuguese extraction! The young will not be suppressed, so perhaps you could look to some of them to back you against the arts establishment? Very best wishes.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Nov '17 - 11:16pm

    Eddie

    Unfortunately the link is only possible to the main page, put in my project name TOM’S CABIN- The Man Of Humanity , scroll and you shall see a picture ,title and youre in ! Thanks. Any problems find me on facebook.

    Katharine

    You are a really constructive friend on here , your comments mean a great deal. Thanks for understanding that emotion and reason go togethter far more than people allow for, whether we agree or not , I think over the considerable period we have all been relating to each other here it is sometimes worth realising. Certainly I was and am very delighted with the reaction of Caron to this , much appreciated from her as she is one who gets the issues the book is about. As do you and our colleagues here, not surprising it was our other Catherine first to contribute something so felt. You do not need to have influential friends, just keep doing what you are, and as with our colleagues, have a read , of the links and we shall keep posted!

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 26th Nov '17 - 7:59am

    Neil Sandison is absolutely right in saying that “sometimes a song, a verse or a play can cut through where even the most able of politicians fail”.
    Charles Dickens, in his novel Oliver Twist, made the public aware of the cruelty and injustice of the workhouse system, in a way that a political speech could not have done. In the same way, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel was a major influence in changing attitudes to slavery. Poets of the First World War, like Wilfred Owen and Siegried Sassoon, enable us to fully understand and feel the tragedy and futility of war, in a way that facts and statistics cannot.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 26th Nov '17 - 8:17am

    Katharine, you suggest that Lorenzo should emphasise the modern parallels, for example the parallels with modern racism. Actually I think the audience will be aware of these parallels, without Lorenzo needing to spell it out. Often it is best to let a story speak, without too much explaining, and trust the audience to find the moral or meaning.
    In the musical Les Miserables, for example, I think the audience are very much aware that the story of the 1830 revolution has modern parallels, although the musical does not attempt to spell this out.
    People watching Lorenzo’s story will, I am sure, realise the relevance to the modern world. Slavery may now be illegal throughout the world, but it still continues, even in Britain. And of course the story has a wider meaning, about the importance of freedom in every sense of the word. This is the essence of liberalism. “None shall be enslaved by poverty, conformity or ignorance”

  • I don’t know whether creativity is encouraged, stifled or emerges through adversity. I suppose it depends how you view the situation. I do know creativity is fragile and needs nurturing.

  • Sue Sutherland 26th Nov '17 - 2:24pm

    Hi Lorenzo! Thank you for your article. We have such a dour form of politics that strangles creativity in many ways. I went to a school that really only encouraged academic success so have tried to encourage my three daughters to be creative and one is an interior architect, but sadly she finds that she isn’t as well paid as some of her friends. I do hope your play is a success because I agree with others who have said that the arts make you think. Creativity is required in all spheres of life otherwise we will never progress.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th Nov '17 - 2:48pm

    Catherine

    Thanks for real insight into the mind and motive of this work and others. As you show and as I mention in the gofundme too, the Les Miserables parallel is appropriate. The character of Jean Valjean , as with Tom, is heroic and good, but a man in a prison of society’s making. I think that Katharine was correct to mention resonance with modern audiences, as are you in realising that one should not particularly emphasise modernity itself, too often that leads to trendy attitudes, something Katharine of course would not like in any sense. I think we all become aware when in the company of others of similar political and social or cultural attitude, how powerful these themes can appear to us rather immediately, thanks.

    Peter

    You are so very subtle and sensible, nurturing is important, the more so, when faced with the alternative , isolation and indifference. I have had this venture enthused about but am aware it is like pulling teeth even though I see huge sums of public and private money frittered away , even, yes Phil, thanks for the comments, but even in Nottingham.

    Sue

    Wonderful to read your comments, creativity is everywhere, the mistake in this country and now and in the US, is the television, perhaps schools, tell kids yes do this, then what is it for?! To be told to keep the day job ?! Avant garde is not the problem, it is that the inmates have not taken over the asylum, it has been taken over by administrators, frauds and bureaucrats!

  • @ Lorenzo Cherin

    The rules for where the spaces are between words and punctuation are not nowadays arbitrary. To not have a space between words and commas or full stops is bad writing. It is also bad if you put the space in the wrong place such as after the word and before the comma as you did in your reply to me. I can’t imagine a publisher publishing a book where the spaces were either missing or not in the correct place. English is not like New Testament Greek! Caron has written to me stating that LDV do activity edit what they publish which is why I criticised them not doing it to your article. As you think you are a writer you should be interested in taking care over what you write and ensure that the spaces are in the correct place to aid people when they attempt to read it. I note you have not bothered to put the spaces in the correct places on gofundme either. It also appears to be all in bold! I would expect most people would think as this person can’t be bothered to put the spaces in the correct places it is unlikely he would produce a professional script for a play. You also do not list what roles you had in theatres and when!

    My point was that as there are lots of plays and musicals based on Uncle Tom’s Cabin this could be one of the reasons why no one wants to finance your musical.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th Nov '17 - 6:55pm

    MichaelBG

    Thank you for your almost ruining my article with your patronising and rather nasty comments.

    You are referring to typing ,not the same thing as writing by any means.

    I quote Sir Peer Ustinov , who said ” My mind works at the speed of a pen .”

    There was no point in saying it was good to read my or any back story if you then go and say awful things. Gofund me is my first attempt to fund this project, my references to lack of funds are due to banks not reading anything , not going beyond , no thanks, hardly the result of my good or bad spacing on a website.

    I do not need your advice or comments on my career history either as you do not know me. I do know that if I read what you wrote to me , written about someone else sharing their concerns with feeling I would be as bothered as you make me here.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th Nov '17 - 7:16pm

    p.s.Michael BG

    There has been no musical of this subject on the stage in the era we call that of the era of the musical theatre. Anyone is free to adapt this and there no doubt have been attempts to, just as there were , as explained herein, many versions in the period of the nineteenth and earlier twentieth century. If instead of trying to wreck someone’s very heartwarming approach to life and culture, you engaged with it you might understand how such comments really do discredit to an article and responses about an issue as important as slavery rather than punctuation !

  • @ Lorenzo Cherin

    I am sorry if my wanting to point out LDV’s failure in their editorial role and my comments regarding the need for spaces to be present and in the correct places has upset you. That was not my intention and I apologise. I was thinking about the need for spaces between words before going to sleep last night and I had this idea that as a school child I was taught to use my little finger to a guide to the size of the space between words.

    I think care should be taken when writing. This is not something I have always thought but with my use of a computer this has become my position. When I hand wrote things, the sentences flowed straight from brain on to the page, nowadays I can read what I have written and edit it to improve it very easily. So writing is not like speaking. Even before the typewriter, writers would correct, edit and modify their work. The old image of a writer surrounded by screwed-up paper of earlier drafts is strong. If you wish to get a book published today the first hint professionals give, is produce a manuscript in the format that those who have to decide its fate want it in.

    I don’t expect people to post here without any mistakes or things they would change if there was an edit facility, but I do expect people to consider their readers and try to write in the standard way, with spaces in the correct places and not all in capitals. (From time to time we see comments all in capitals and it is pointed out this is not the standard way we present things.) I also would like to think that if someone pointed out that the way a person wrote made it difficult to read that the author would try their best to sort out the issue.

  • I am not surprised banks would not finance your project. I would be surprised if any bank financed any theatrical production. I am disappointed that you don’t think it was helpful to point out that you should have included information about your theatre experience in your request for funding, and that your request for funding should be professional looking.

    I did engage with your story and from my point of view be helpful. I pointed out that because of the number of plays and musicals already written based on Uncle Tom’s Cabin, your failure to get your musical into production is understandable. I then helpfully pointed out what you could do to improve the chances for getting people to fund your production. However, it appears I am wasting my efforts, because you think presentation is not important.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Nov '17 - 1:20am

    Michael BG
    You are not wasting your time, you are concentrating on something you think important, as is your human right, not what is , with regard to this story which is mine and that of the great author I am adapting.

    The fact is songs and scripts are meant to be sung and spoken, spacing in an article is only an issue if not as concerned with that.

    If you think constructive use of your posts was your motive, you need to work on more than presentation but on how to be sensitive , especially to those clearly in need of reaching out to make contacts, ie me.

    I do care about presentation and have taught it to people very vulnerable, but do so as a way to build not dent confidence.

  • @ Lorenzo Cherin

    I think good communication is very important and it is down to the author to communicate in the best way they can so their ideas are understood by as wide an audience as possible. You do not seem to see it as being as important as me.

    You are making vague comments that I need to work on my presentation and how to be sensitive, which are not helpful in any way because they are so vague. At least I did state what you needed to do to improve your presentation. Also I did show some sensitivity by apologising for upsetting you. I don’t think my first posting was either nasty or insensitive. However you clearly took umbrage at it and are not open to the idea that making some simple changes to the way you write would make what you write easier for me to read. As you say you have taught presentation I am surprised at the attitude you have shown to my suggestions on how to improve your presentation. I hope when you are feeling less sensitive you will consider what I was saying and not how I was saying it and try to make your postings easier for me to read.

  • I have not commented on the ability of Harriet Beecher Stowe as an author or the literary value of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. However I note from reading her Wikipedia entry that she defended the highland clearances. Perhaps “Twelve Years a Slave” by Solomon Northup is a better book. I don’t know!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 1st Dec '17 - 1:52am

    Michael BG

    I do say you need to be more sensitive because I have taught presentation, and , as a liberal, Liberal or Liberal Democrat , believe rules about these things are less stringent than assumed here or explained , here, by you to me.

    I do not write for you, my views on my presentation are based on the fact I have not had the criticisms you make from others.

    You do not have to like the way I present the typeset or the spacing. I am sharing my personal story and do not want to continue to in an article about the fictitious one, by a great lady.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 1st Dec '17 - 1:56am

    Michael BG

    Solomon Northup , dedicated his book to Harriet Beecher Stowe!

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